Let's look back

Tuvalu and Taiwan formally established diplomatic relations on 19 September 1979. At that time, Tuvalu had recently become postcolonial, having declared independence on 1 October 1978 after separating from Kiribati, to which it had been linked as part of Great Britain’s Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. However, because it possessed historical or linguistic ties to Nauru, Kiribati, Tonga, Sāmoa, Banaba, and Fiji, Tuvalu was by no means an isolated player in the Pacific region after gaining independence. Further, in the 1970s, there was a growing assertion both internationally and in Tuvalu of rights to Exclusive Economic Zones, which demarcated control of national marine resources. Though Tuvalu did not emerge from colonization with everything it had hoped for from the British, it did control extensive marine assets that many nations, especially the archipelagic and peninsular countries of East Asia, including China desperately hoped to access.


Now some 40 years later, we have seen consistent relations between both Ally nations across a range of fields spanning areas such as climate change, education, energy, fisheries and health care. And further pledges to deepen exchanges with the Pacific ally across the board as part of the government’s efforts advancing sustainable development in the region.

However, that can't be said for Kiribati and the Solomon Islands who switched diplomatic recognition to China with Beijing has been accused of luring them in with the promise of financial aid and airplanes. China is one of the world’s most global players, and is somewhat responsible for the Tuvalu’s predicament, is seen as buy off countries and bribing their way through their guilt.

Tuvalu’s foreign minister, Simon Kofe, rejected offers from Chinese companies to build artificial islands to help it cope with rising sea levels, an approach viewed as undermining Taiwan’s influence in the region. Instead Kofe explicitly expressed support for Taiwan and said his country was working to set up a group uniting Taiwan’s remaining four allies in the Pacific.

Kofe states,

“Tuvalu and Taiwan diplomatic ties are strongest they’ve ever been, we believe in the power of grouping together and collaborating.”

Kofe added, referring to the Marshall Islands, Palau and Nauru as well as Tuvalu,

"Together with our partners, we will be able to counter the influence from mainland China.”

Kofe told Reuters that Chinese companies had recently approached local communities to help support a $400 million government plan to build artificial islands, saying he believed the companies were backed by the Chinese government.

“It’s a no from us. We are hearing a lot of information about debt, China buying our islands and looking at setting up military bases in our part of the world. Those are things that are concerning to us.”
“We hope those are lessons for other countries to be careful and be conscious of those negative impact...It’s not good for our Pacific fellow brothers and sisters.”

China’s moves to expand its influence in the Pacific have alarmed the United States and its allies, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The group has dominated the strategic waters of the small developing nations since World War Two and are pushing back against Beijing’s moves.

The Tuvaluan nation is to continue relying on domestic and international support from ally nations and organisations in relation to the prevention of the nations displacement. With growing tension between China and Taiwan time will only tell the effectiveness of Tuvalu's diplomatic position.